Saturday, September 25, 2010

52 books in 52 weeks

14. Bluets by Maggie Nelson

I love what Maggie Nelson is doing with prose. Bluets doesn't have the macabre power of Jane: A Murder, but it is a beautiful and moving exploration of her relationship to the color blue. The one thing I don't like about the combination of poetry/memoir/aphorism Nelson practices is that I want to bite her style.

15. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

It's unfortunate that I started here in the Carey canon, because I really could not get into this book. I picked it up as part of an Australian literature immersion around my trip to Adelaide, etc. this summer, and I was not engaged. Ned Kelly is certainly a memorable bushranger, but there was nothing for me to grab on to as a twenty-first century woman living (for now) in Los Angeles.

16. It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden

I bought this book on a whim at the National Gallery of Victoria. The graphic design grabs you, and then Arden - a British advertising guru - gives you small nuggets of wisdom he acquired on his rise to the top. I read it in one sitting and felt energized, but not for that long.

17. Mission to America by Walter Kirn

My introduction to Kirn's work was his appearance at the Central Library for Lost in the Meritocracy. If you were there, you know the excerpt he read was memorable. (Teaser: there is college humiliation and piano destruction.) So I started this book, which had been on my shelf awhile. Mission to America is enjoyable as a subtle parody of the current state of American spirituality and lack thereof.

18. Dream Stuff: Stories by David Malouf

Unlike Carey's novel, Malouf's short stories gave me a smorgasbord of Australia. I was able to have a quick taste of urban Australia, rural, mid-century, contemporary, adult, child, dark, lyrical...I am very much looking forward to reading more of Malouf, and if you haven't checked him out, it's worth it.

19. Ilustrado by Miguel Sycedo

There are elements of Sycedo's rich, far-reaching novel of the Philippines and the writer's life that are derivative, but he chooses his influences well: Bolaño, Vonnegut, Pynchon...Ilustrado won the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2008, and as a first novel, it's very impressive. There are moments that call out for pruning, but for the most part, it's quite well done.
20. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

If you know anything about me, you know I adore David Mitchell, so I was half heartbroken when I started reading this new novel. I wanted another Cloud Atlas, and this epic history of an eighteenth-century Dutch-inhabited island-ette off the coast of Japan is not very similar at all. But once I got over myself and started reading this novel on its own merits, I longed to escape to Dejima every night before I slept.

21. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shtyengart

I'm looking forward to reading more Shtyengart. While this novel started to lose me when New York descended into chaos, I was very impressed by his ventriloquism. Both main characters speak - or actually write - in very distinct styles and voices, and I never doubted their authenticity. I'd love to see what Shtyengart could do with characters I really cared about. His portrait of the dystopian near future made me feel ickily anxious.